Bicycle Repair and Sales
Bike shop owners love bikes. But starting your own store requires
a lot more than love. The competition is fierce.
Fred Sperber is the co-owner of a bike shop in Killington, Vermont. He
went into the business because of his love for bikes and because an opportunity
arose for him to operate a rental business.
His advice is to know bikes, have a passion for them and don't forget your
business sense. "Whether you're selling plates or bikes, this is no different
from any other business."
Competition is tough. "The bicycle retail industry typically loses about
1,000 bicycle dealers each year, mostly start-ups, but gains that many back
because of even more start-ups," says the website of the National Bicycle
Dealers Association (NBDA).
Finding a niche can be the key to success.
"Our niche is the tourist industry," says Sperber, speaking of his rural,
mountainous community. "We've seen a trend in road bike sales. And having
a website has been very helpful."
Caroline VandenBulk and her husband own a bike shop. They started their
shop after moving to North America from Holland. There, they owned a shop
for 13 years.
"It's nice to deal with people, decorate your own store, order your own
products and see if they sell," says VandenBulk.
She enjoys working with active people. "More older people are staying on
bikes, and healthier people want to bike more."
She has seen a trend toward more mountain bike and road bike sales in her
store. She has also noticed that people are looking for more comfortable seats
on their bikes.
Her advice? Have "high-quality repair, a lot of service and a good-looking
Ed Benjamin owned and operated successful stores in Florida for many years.
He is now a bicycle industry consultant. He gives straight advice to people
looking to start their own bike shops.
You will need:
- A willingness to do whatever it takes to make the business work
- Experience in bicycle shops -- it's a big help, but not necessary
- Knowledge of the product -- this is very important, but not as important
as knowledge of people
- Salesmanship skills -- graduates of sales training have an advantage
- People skills -- with customers, employees and suppliers
- Family support -- if the entire family is involved and emotionally committed,
things work better
- About $200,000 to pay for tools, fixtures, start-up costs and beginning
inventory for a small store. For a large store, $600,000 to $1 million would
"Bicycle stores are classic small businesses," says Benjamin. "They do
it all -- sales, repair, rental, marketing, community involvement. They have
employees, inventory, product liability and many, many other consuming issues
and tasks to address.
"Small businessmen in such an environment are often overwhelmed with the
sheer volume and detail of the work they are faced with. And they usually
do not have the needed skills to delegate, train and supervise the staff to
get other people to do the work effectively.
"So for most small entrepreneurs, exhaustion, both physical and emotional,
is the biggest problem. 'Burned out' could be engraved on the bankruptcy papers
of many small businessmen," Benjamin says.
To prevent this, the entrepreneur needs a well-thought out business plan
that has realistic goals and a realistic time frame.
"The plan needs to reflect realistic views of what resources -- both money
and time -- are available. Along with a sense of what is most important, and
a willingness to both work hard and to pace the effort," states Benjamin.
The NBDA reports that the most successful bicycle dealers stress personal
The association says cycling ranks fifth on the list of most popular outdoor
recreational activities. And cycling participation is strong -- about 45-million
Pro-bike enthusiasm is high, especially in certain parts of the country.
One competition attracted about 30,000 cyclists, according to Bicycle Retailer
and Industry news.
If you are bike savvy, love the sport, have a good business plan and the
money to start, you could cycle right into your dream job.
National Bicycle Dealers Association
Useful information for people thinking of starting a business
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Excellent cycling news and facts